March is a month when four-leaf clovers pop up, climaxing with the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day which was on the 17th. While it’s nice to fantasize that finding a four-leaf clover might bring luck, or believe in the “luck of the Irish,” relying on luck is no way to address health — especially as we age.
According to a 2015 article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preventive services are highly underutilized by seniors, despite their potential to save lives. These are sobering statistics:
- Only 25% of adults aged 50 to 64 are up-to-date on services.
- Less than 50% of adults aged 65 or older are up-to-date.
This is quite distressing, especially since routine preventive services are covered, in part or completely, by most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.
Clinical preventive services can prevent or detect disease early, when treatment is more effective. These services include screenings for chronic conditions, immunizations for diseases like influenza and pneumonia, and counseling about personal health behaviors.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a number of preventive care screenings for seniors, including the following:
- Blood glucose and Type 2 diabetes
- Cognitive impairment
- Colorectal cancer
- Coronary heart disease
- Hearing loss
- High blood pressure
- Impaired visual acuity
In addition, counseling is suggested with respect to fall prevention and alcohol and tobacco use. Plus, because our immune systems weaken over time, putting us at higher risk for certain diseases, the CNC recommends in addition to a seasonal flu vaccine and Td or Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), seniors should also get:
- Pneumococcal vaccines, which protect against pneumococcal disease, including infections in the lungs and bloodstream (seniors 65 and older)
- Zoster vaccine, which protects against shingles (seniors 60 and older)
According to SeniorHomes.com, disease prevention should be at the forefront of any healthcare strategy for older adults. Key takeaways from an article about senior health on that site are:
- Older adults are at greater risk of contracting diseases.
- Older adults can prevent most diseases through a healthy lifestyle, including diet, exercise and lack of risky activity.
- Early detection of certain diseases lowers the possibility of mortality while increasing the success rates of treatment and care.
- Comprehensive geriatric assessment may be necessary for those already coping with certain diseases.
What all this means is that we have no excuse for leaving our health up to luck. Many seniors — perhaps more men than women — have shied away from seeing a doctor regularly as young people since they never felt bad. That strategy may have served them well so far, but it’s not likely to ensure their quality of life will continue as more birthdays roll around.
At S.A.F.E., we highly recommend you ensure your senior loved ones are getting preventive care at least yearly to help with warding off disease or catching serious medical conditions at their early stage, when they’re easier to treat. When it comes to health, no one can count on being lucky.